Tokyo is one of the world`s most exciting cities. I think many people would agree with that statement. But there are also times when you need some personal time, just to take a break and relax. When that time comes, what do you do? Many people would suggest one of Tokyo`s many fabulous parks, a long drive to the country or even head to the beach. Maybe even Mount Takao, if you can get over the crowds. What would you suggest?
Yes, I know many people would choose the countryside, as the areas around Tokyo are very, very good. However, there are times when you are trapped in the city due to work, or your calendar is completely booked and you only have a few hours to spare one day in the week. At times like that, what do you do? Do the next best thing and head to Setagaya ward’s Todoroki valley. It’s not the real countryside, but it is close! I think it is a pretty cool place considering it is not far from the center of the world’s largest city. Just a two-minute walk from the nearest station, and you’ll be right there.
Once you make it down the fairly steep stairs to the floor of the valley, you`ll notice the quietness fairly quickly as the tall trees block out a lot of the outside noise and cast their shadows over the valley floor. When I say, “quietness”, maybe I exaggerate slightly as some big roads do cross over it via bridges and in those places you will hear cars, but the noise isn’t so bad. Rather muted I’d say.
It`s a peaceful, quiet place to recuperate away from the crowds and neon lights, especially during the hot summer months. And that is a good thing as some of us don`t want to have the whole day taken up taking a train out to the countryside and then doing a long hike. This walk you will still leave you with lots of energy when you head back to the middle of the city.
For such a little place, Todoroki has so much inside waiting for you. A river with some quaint wooden bridges crossing it, little shrines and a big one, pathways to explore, a Japanese garden, that you will have to climb up out of the valley to see, and beautiful fresh air, it`s a great place. And, being in a very convenient location it is a great place to visit, very easy to get to.
Granted, the valley is fairly short, being only 1.2 kilometres in length and is quite narrow as well, with the Yazawa river splitting it down the middle. For some people, calling the Yazawa a river might be overkill as it is pretty small. But after a good rain that little creek can get quite noisy as the water can rush through.
And the further you get in the better it gets. Towards the end of the valley you`ll find Todoroki Fudo temple, that has a history going back to the Heian period, and lies at the top of a hill. That large temple itself is quite interesting and beautiful but the best part is under it next to the river. There are two statues, a waterfall which is still used for the monks’ ascetic training, and a small shrine. It really is a great little place and makes for some great photos. Just a pity that it all ends so soon.
One thing I think many people miss is that there are a few trails that go up the side of the valley. Climb up them and you can get a little extra height to look over the valley floor. Also, close to the top you’ll find some tombs dating from between the late Kofun and Nara periods.
I highly recommend Todoroki valley especially in the warmer months due to it being a little cooler than anywhere else in Tokyo and it offers something genuinely different. The other good thing is that it isn’t too far from Shibuya, roughly twenty minutes depending on which lines you use. The only negatives I could give it is that it is the valley is quite short and in summer you will need your mosquito repellent! But if you want to enjoy some of the great outdoors in Tokyo, put Todoroki on your list!
How to get to Todoroki valley
Todoroki valley is in Setagaya ward, just a few minutes’ walk from Todoroki station which is on the Oimachi line. I think, for most people, the easiest way to get there would be from Shibuya, so use the Tokyu Toyoko line and get off at Jiyugaoka. From Jiyugaoka use an Oimachi line local train, and Todoroki will only be three stops away. Here is a Google map of the local area:
24 hours a day, but I think it’d be close to pitch black in there late at night.
Just a couple more things!
1) You`re not allowed to have picnic lunches in the valley, however there is a Japanese garden where you can eat (marked on the map), and there is also a small café, plus;
2) there is a good pizzeria, Otto, right next to the valley up on Kanpachi-dori. I really like it and it is reasonably priced (in my opinion anyway), and they have English menus.
If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy:
Edo-Tokyo Museum – learn more of the great city of Tokyo and its history
Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum – see how the Japanese used to live
Shinjuku Gyoen – the biggest park in the inner Tokyo area
Yanaka cemetery – the resting place of Japan’s last shogun
Zojoji – one of Tokyo’s greatest temples